Texas Governor Greg Abbott has orders to all state agencies to ban the use of TikTok on any government-issued devices. The order was issued out of concern that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could access sensitive data that may be used to attack critical American infrastructure.
The popular video-sharing application is owned by a Chinese company that employs CCP members and has a subsidiary partially owned by the CCP. TikTok reportedly has more than 85 million users here in the United States alone.
Abbott explained his decision in letters sent to Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dada Phelan, and a number of state agency leaders.
TikTok is a video-sharing mobile application with more than 85 million users in the United
States. It belongs to a Chinese company called ByteDance Ltd., which employs Chinese
Communist Party members and has a subsidiary that is partially owned by the Chinese
Communist Party. TikTok harvests vast amounts of data from its users’ devices—including
when, where, and how they conduct internet activity—and offers this trove of potentially
sensitive information to the Chinese government. While TikTok has claimed that it stores U.S.
data within the U.S., the company admitted in a letter to Congress that China-based employees
can have access to U.S. data. It has also been reported that ByteDance planned to use TikTok
location information to surveil individual American citizens. Further, under China’s 2017
National Intelligence Law, all businesses are required to assist China in intelligence work,
including data sharing, and TikTok’s algorithm has already censored topics politically sensitive
to the Chinese Communist Party, including the Tiananmen Square protests.
The director of the FBI recently warned that the Chinese government can control TikTok’s
content algorithm, allowing it to perpetrate influence operations within the United States. In
fact, the use of TikTok on federal-government devices is already prohibited by agencies like the
U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland
Texas is not the first state to ban the popular app. Abbots announcement follows similar bans in Maryland, South Dakota, South Carolina and Nebraska.